Shooting Reflective Surfaces

Shooting Product 5 days a week 8 hours a day for years now, I have run into many situations that are very complicated.  Some of the simplest products can create the most complicated issues.  I have often told some of my photography friends that I shoot hundreds of images in a day.  This will normally be followed by unimpressed looks as if product is simple, “just put it on the table and shoot it.”  I wish it were that simple; in fact I am constantly striving to get to a point where it is that easy for me.

 The lighting involved in what I do can’t be based on a “do this every time formula, on min I could be shooting a stick of RAM and the next I could be shooting a Dell all in one system with a glossy black reflective surface that just loves to reflect everything in the room.  I have to wear many hats, and deal with some crazy things.  Today I will go into shooting reflective clear plastic.

You want to first take a few moments to assess the product itself, what kind of package does it come in, what are going to be the issues with posing it.  In this case the cars were in blister packages a very thin clear shiny reflective plastic.  You don’t want to get overexcited and just rip it open and pull out the car; you have to shoot the box first without destroying it.

Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon

Now I can move to the camera and start to shoot the product.  I am normally mindful of reducing the specular highlights in plastic but I constant deadlines as far as product is concerned and am constantly being told to just let the whole perfection thing go and get the product up and for sale.  That being the case I am not going to give the blister packaging the time that the main image will get.  I will get it shot in one very simple frame.

 Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon

I set the product up so that the camera is slightly elevated but mostly square to the product with the soft boxes right over the top to reduce the specular highlights over the wording or car itself.

 Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon

Posing these things can be a pain because they don’t just stand up they are designed to be on a rack, that is why there is a hole in the top.  So to combat that complicated issue I have found a great solution.

Use a Roll of clear packaging tape or any small object!

 Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon

The tape is large and heavy but narrow enough that it won’t stick out on the edges of the plastic.  The only downside I ever get is a little shadow on the underside of the plastic but it is un-noticeable to the consumer.

Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon

This is the out the door package image that will display on the a website.  If I was given more than 10 min to work on this image I would go in and clean up the scratches and imperfections on the plastic but when you work with limited samples and are in a metric oriented photographic environment you have to work with what you’ve got.

There was a time at my current job where management allowed me to “geek out” and totally clean up and repair the boxes and products in post production.  But in our fast paced work environment we have to “get it out the door!”  Maybe someday I will get in a position where I am working in a slower more detail oriented environment.

Now that the box is shot I can move forward to shooting the main unit image.  This is the time to finally cut open the plastic along the edge (we still need to sell it) with a box cutter and carefully remove the product.

Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon

It is important to keep the cut clean also because you not only have to sell the product, but you also have to repackage it after the shoot.  I have found that the cleaner you keep it now the easier it is to put it back together later.  It can take longer to take the products out and put them back in than it does to shoot compose light and shoot the product itself.

Take care of your Clients Product!!

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